Three Australian Racehorses Suspected With EI
The equine influenza crisis took a dark turn in Australia the morning of Aug. 26. All track work halted at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney after three Thoroughbreds showed symptoms of equine influenza. It was the first time EI appeared to have crept into Australian racing circles.
The three racehorses from the stables of Bart Cummings and Gai Waterhouse had higher than normal temperatures. Veterinary officials took blood samples and sent them to a laboratory for testing.
"Two of the horses have only got slightly elevated temperatures, but in the current circumstances, we're not prepared to take any risks whatsoever," Racing New South Wales spokesman Peter V'Landys told ABC News.
Before the latest cases at Randwick, 47 horses in New South Wales were confirmed infected with EI. Some 6,000 horses are quarantined in stables throughout Queensland because of the national ban on moving horses. Those who violate the ban face a potential jail term of one year and fines up to $44,000.
At least 20 horses at the Morgan Park site in Warwick, in southern Queensland, have reportedly shown signs of the virus, but a flu diagnosis there has not been confirmed. Results of blood tests are expected later this week.
Queensland Racing chairman Bob Bentley has called for an inquiry into the outbreak, which has brought the racing industry to its knees.
Melbourne Cup threatened
"It is better to have a deferred Cup than no Cup at all," McGauran said.
Dick McIlwain, chief executive of Unitab Queensland, downplayed that suggestion. "The Melbourne Cup is over two months away. It is absolutely ludicrous for people to panic and suggest that the Melbourne Cup is going to be affected here," he told ABC News.
"To even think at this stage that we couldn't find 24 clean horses in Australia to go around in a race two months from now is just absolutely ridiculous. I think people ought to just settle down, and quite clearly it is a significant issue, it's an issue that is being managed ... and stupid hysteria won't resolve anything."
The Melbourne isn’t the only upcoming race shadowed by EI.
New Zealand government officials announced Aug. 27 that all importation of horses to that country from Australia had been halted over the weekend because of the EI outbreak. That means no Australian horses will be able to contest the NZ $2-million Kelt Stakes (Aust-I) set for late September. Ten Australian horses have been nominated to the Kelt Stakes, an important leadup race to the AUS $3.5-million WS Cox Plate in October. U.S. multiple grade II winner Silver Tree had reportedly been gearing for the Cox Plate this year.
Factoring in the 75 mares booked to visit New Zealand-based stallions this year, the EI problem mushrooms. Sept. 1 is the official start of breeding for Thoroughbreds in the Southern Hemisphere, and the hub of breeding is Australia’s New South Wales. The blanket ban on movement of horses to and from New South Wales will remain in force until at least next weekend. If it continues more than a month, the lockdown could devastate Australia's breeding and racing industries.
Hendra virus in vet
A Thoroughbred vet infected by the killer Hendra virus was admitted to a hospital in Queensland Aug. 26. The vet contracted the virus after performing an autopsy on a Thoroughbred in his clinic last week. There are reportedly two known current cases of Hendra in the Thoroughbred population in Queensland.
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